Though bear hunting is most often practiced far and away from the Bowdoin quad, a proposition to ban certain types of bear hunting will appear on ballots in Brunswick and the rest of Maine on November 2.

The question reads: "Do you want to make it a crime to hunt bears with bait, traps or dogs, except to protect property, public safety or for research?" The proposition was approved for the ballot after 103,000 Mainers signed a petition.

Any person bear baiting, using hounds to hunt bears, or illegally trapping bears would lose his or her hunting license for five years. Caught a second time, the person would lose the license permanently.

According to the law, illegal bait would include, but not be limited to, "doughnuts and other pastries, grease, meat, fruits, vegetables, honey and any other food known to be attractive to bear."

The Bowdoin Outing Club organized a discussion last night in Kresge Auditorium about the proposition. It included representatives from Maine's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council and the Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting (MCFBH). Few students attended the event, but many community members came with questions for the panel.

One opponent of the proposition said that 3,500 to 4,000 of the estimated 23,000 bears in Maine need to be killed every year in order to control the population. He said trapping accounts for three percent of bear hunting and baiting and hounding accounts for 90 percent, so the ban would likely cause the bear population to dangerously increase.

The MCFBH panel member said that sometimes bears are caught in traps for days with broken limbs. He also said conditioning bears with unnatural food for up to thirty days just isn't fair practice. He said he has been a hunter all his life, but certain ethical standards need to be enforced by the state.

MCFBH says that Maine is the only state left with all three forms of bear hunting legal. The organization says Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have recently passed laws banning bear baiting and hounding, and that the total bear kill has actually increased since the ban. The group argues that Maine can see the same results with "fair-chase methods" of hunting.

The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has come out strongly against the question. It claims the initiative is led by the Humane Society of the United States, "the most aggressive and best-funded national anti-hunting organization." It notes that Governor John Baldacci and Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have come out against the ban. Its web site features a picture of a bear in a backyard with swing sets.

The Maine Professional Guides Association says, "Black bears are dangerous. They can and do kill people." The group says law enforcement already has its hands full with bears and the ban would only make matters worse.

A 70-page study by the firm Eaton Peabody and University of Southern Maine Professor Charles Colgan concludes that $62 million could be lost in the state's economy if the ban passes. It also predicts a loss of up to 770 full- and part-time jobs.

Whether the proposition passes or not, the bear hunting season will remain between the first Monday preceding September 30 and November 30.

A poll released Wednesday by SurveyUSA shows the proposition losing 51 percent to 46 percent, with 3 percent undecided. The poll of 647 likely voters was conducted from October 17 to 19. The margin of error was 3.9 percent.